On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast​, we’re talking about creating a community space for crafters with my guest Leigh Metcalf.

Leigh is the owner of Topstitch Studio and Lounge in Atlanta, GA, a fabric and sewing studio (formerly an in-person physical space at Ponce City Market), author of London Stitch and Knit, A craft lover’s guide to London’s fabric, knitting and haberdashery shops, and she’s also the host of the online sewcial community, Topstitch Makers.

This episode is sponsored by C&T Publishing.

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The workspace at Topstitch Studio.

We begin this conversation by talking about how Leigh came to understand the London craft shop scene well enough to write her book. Leigh shares some lessons she learned visiting so many craft stores, chiefly that community is central to a store’s success.

When Leigh returned to the US and decided to open a store of her own, she got some very generous advice from a fellow brick-and-mortar shop owner. She also learned that it’s possible to write an abbreviated business plan (rather than an intimidating 45-pager) and still find a landlord willing to lease you space!

Leigh talks about the first location of her shop, Topstitch Studio, and its second location in Ponce City Market in Atlanta. Both spots had pros and cons regarding the level of foot traffic and the typical customer who would stop in.


Leigh kicking back at Topstitch Studio.

She talks about the product assortment she bought for the shop, and the effort to make those products truly unique and special since the shop was not large and couldn’t have every single line of fabric or skein of yarn. Commissioning artisans to make special limited-edition items, and creating her own small runs of fabric, were both ways to continually delight her customers.

The crew at Toptstich Studio after a party.

Finally, Leigh talks about pivoting during the pandemic to creating an online membership rather than a brick-and-mortar. She shares the wisdom she picked up making this shift and what her plans are for the future.

In this conversation, we reference:

And, of course, I ask Leigh to recommend great stuff she’s enjoying right now. Leigh recommends:

Keep up with Leigh online through her community, Topstitch Makers, and follow along on Instagram for updates.

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